Monday, February 02, 2009

Triumphant Survivors

Many years ago I was privileged to hear a speaker who made an impact on me. Ann Kaiser Sterns is the author of numerous books, including Coming Back: Rebuilding Lives after Crisis and Loss, published in 1989. She worked with a large group of people who had been through tragedies ranging from death, divorce, and illness, to many other life time events. Each one went through their horrible event, grieved, mourned, and experienced all the other emotions of a devastating situation. And each had a personal outcome that Sterns used to sort them into three separate groups.

The first group went through the tragedy and never got back to where they were in life; they just never moved forward. The second group did get back to where they were before the tragedy and moved along with a relatively normal life.

Triumphant Woman SunriseIt was the third group that not only got through the tragedy, and came back to where they were before, but they then went on to use the situation as a spring board. These are the ones she calls the Triumphant Survivors. The best example is the two women who started MADD. They are triumphant survivors!

We have to learn how to say good bye, how to put closure to things in our lives. Sterns told a story about a friend who needed a mastectomy and how she was going to cope. This woman wrote a letter to her breast, a letter telling her breast/friend goodbye. She described the joy of being a teenager, of how she looked in her sweaters, to how she nursed her baby. She went on to say that her breast was her friend but the time had come to say good bye. Because without saying good bye, she would not be able to live with her friend. I was so moved by the story – what a tribute to handling a very difficult situation.

I was telling this story to a dear friend this week who is facing a mastectomy. She loved hearing about the letter and asked if I would write this for her. My friend, you know who you are. I love you and know that everything will work out.

Sunrise GullI have found in my careers of nursing, art, and real estate that, when speaking to people in depression, almost always there was some kind of tragedy that happened 18 months to 2 years before.

Moving may not be a disaster, but it is a major life change. Saying "Good bye" and putting closure is also important in real estate. I have written about saying good bye to your house when you move, and of helping children say goodbye to their home. In one of my several counseling sessions with real estate clients, I share how to say good bye to the home they are selling. There are many good memories and some not so good memories that need to be acknowledged as they go from room to room. I believe that some of the depressive situations my clients deal with have been lessoned by my bit of counseling.

How many Triumphant Survivors can you identify with? Are you one?

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